Happy Black History Month, No Voting Rights for You

It is hard to make since out of what’s been going on in United States with regard to voting rights over the last year or so. Yes, in spite of Fox News stating that the 2020 election was stolen, Joe Biden did, in fact, win that election. The election was close in Arizona. Republicans cried foul and decided that they would hire a company with no election experience to recount all the votes in Maricopa County, a Democratic stronghold. The funny thing is that their fraudulent recount actually showed that Joe Biden did when Maricopa County. So, instead of figuring out how they can appeal to more voters, Republicans have decided to change the rules. As of December, 19 states have passed 34 laws restricting voting. Early voting, which improves access to voting for the poor, has been reduced. A couple of states have even passed laws to allow partisan ballot reviews after voters have voted. You don’t have to have great imagination to see that in the states if these partisan reviewers don’t like your ballot for whatever reason, your ballot will be thrown out. Oh, and don’t expect the courts to bail you out.

2020 was a re-districting year. This means that every state, once they get the census data, can redraw its districts. In theory, the purpose of this is to make sure that everyone is equally represented. In actuality, redistricting is used as a tool to dilute the power of the poor and minorities. The technique of gerrymandering is actually quite simple when you have the demographic data that we now have at our fingertips. With fairly simple mapping programs, it’s possible to figure out average income, race, single-parent or multi-parent household for every state, every county, city, ZIP Code and neighborhood. More sophisticated programs can break down the United States block by block.

Let’s say that you would like to dilute the liberal vote in Asheville. How would you do that? Well, there are multiple different ways. First of all, you can break Asheville up into four separate districts. Extend those districts into the surrounding areas which are more conservative. Make sure that you include more conservatives than liberals in every single district. This way, no matter how motivated liberals are to get out and vote, the game is rigged against them. The second way you can gerrymander a district is make one large district, Asheville, liberal. Then, make five or six of the surrounding districts conservative but each of these districts have significantly less people. They will be overrepresented at the state level while the huge Asheville district will be underrepresented at the state level. Both methods are grossly unfair.

We need national standards for developing districts. We need one standard that is applied equally across all 50 states. We also need voting to be easier for everyone. We need early voting. We need voting on Saturdays. Voting for major elections should be a national holiday. This would be the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Both these bills have passed the House. Both of these bills have died in the Senate. If we are going to live in a democracy, we need fairness in our districts and we need access to the polls. Simply put, the Democrats did not get it done. Sure, not one Republican voted for this common sense legislation. But, at the end of the day, the Democrats had an opportunity to do something truly historic and meaningful for the United States.

The Stock Market and Crypto Currency
About 30 or 40 years ago, there is a book called Grow Rich Slowly. The book discussed how you could wisely begin investing money when you’re 25. You regularly put money into your investment account. You then pour that money into stocks. You put blinders on and don’t jump into the highly risky, new shiny stocks, but instead stay with the blue-chip stocks like IBM, General Motors and the like. Over 20 or 30 years, you would have a nice nest egg and you’re ready to retire.

When I read the book, I was about 30 years old. I thought I was a little behind the timeline but, I can make this up. The problem with this whole theory is that it assumes that you live modestly and have $3000 to $5000, every month, to invest in your future. This also assumes that you don’t have any unexpected expenses. You don’t get sick. Your daughter does not want to have a nice wedding. You never get fired. You also must stay at the same job and live in the same house because switching jobs and changing houses can cost lots of money. (Unless you are my sister, she has moved 10 or 15 times in the last 30 years and has never lost money. I don’t know how she does it.)

Instead, we need to be honest with each other. Sure, you can invest everything you have in a stock that no one’s heard of and it could skyrocket overnight. If that happens to you, congratulations! You’re a millionaire. For the most part, the stock market is for the rich. (I know I’m not supposed to say that out loud.) They have tons of extra cash lying around. They can invest millions. They can let their millions grow at 3 to 5% per year. Basically, they’re using millions to make millions. Laws have been passed so that huge swings in the stock market are rare. If you are a millionaire, you have to take unreasonable risks in order to lose your millions. (Even then, there are things like derivatives to help minimize even the riskiest bets.) On the other hand, if you invest $200 and your investment goes wild and grows at 25% per year and you put in $200 every year for 5 years, you will have $2662.11. Are you ready to retire? No real investment is going to give you 25% per year. Now let’s do the calculation with a more realistic 3% per year. You have $1325.54 at the end of 5 years, but you put in $1000.

One of the funniest things about investing is looking at these investment growth charts. Almost all of them start off with an investment of $50,000. Who has $50,000 lying around? If you do, good for you.

Let me talk about crypto for just a second. If you’re sitting around at home and trading American dollars for Japanese yen or the English pound, then crypto currency may be for you. On the other hand, if you can’t figure out how you can make money trading one currency for another then why would you be interested in crypto currency? I am not a money guy, but it seems to me that crypto has been designed to suck money out of your pocket, quickly and efficiently then put your money into somebody’s pocket. In most transactions, at least you know who’s ripping you off. In crypto currency you have no idea. Recently, I heard a commercial in which you can invest from your retirement account into crypto currency. I’m sorry, I can’t think of a worse idea. I think it is safer to flush your retirement money down your toilet than invest in crypto but I’m probably biased.

A couple of things
I really don’t have any idea what’s going on with Russia. I know that Vladimir Putin loves power. I know that he wants to be perceived as one of the world’s most powerful man. He wants Russia to be seen by the world as a superpower just like the United States. The last thing I heard was that Russia was amassing troops on the Ukrainian border. The United States is sending troops to NATO in order to counteract this nonsense. If any of this remind you of the Cuban missile crisis, it should. This could be extremely bad.

As some of you know, I love football. I love the competition. I love the athleticism. I love the bravado. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember playing football in junior high school and I really wanted to play quarterback. Although the coach let me take some snaps at quarterback, he was really pushing me to play wide receiver. At the time, there were no black quarterbacks in the NFL. There was a perception that the quarterback was the most cerebral of football players and a black man would not be capable. Fast forward to now, there is no doubt that a black man can play quarterback in the NFL. As a matter fact, some teams are actively changing their offenses in order to take advantage of the skills of the extremely athletic black quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson.

Black coaches are a different thing entirely. If, we thought that Blacks could not be quarterbacks, that it is hundred percent clear that Blacks cannot be coaches. The NFL has been reluctant to hire Black coaches. As a matter fact, some teams have gone so far as to hire coaches who have clearly failed in the NFL rather than to give a Black coach a chance. The NFL does not like to be in court. The NFL does not like to have the spotlight shined upon it. Brian Flores, the former Black coach of the Miami Dolphins, has sued the league for discrimination. I have no idea how this is going to work out. All I can tell you is that this is going to get ugly. The NFL will probably get a black eye over this. Remember, that the NFL is nothing but a small collection of billionaires. The NFL is 32 billionaires who each own a single team. Basically, billionaires make up the rules and they do what they want. It is going to be hard for a court of law to make billionaires bend to their will. All I know is that we must keep working hard. We must look out for each other. We must keep each other safe (Covid has not gone away). Finally, we must keep fighting to make America a better place. Happy Black history month!

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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